Friday, December 31, 2010

My Most Popular Posts of 2010

 I was suprised to see how closely the top posts of 2010 reflect the all time traffic for my blog that I posted yesterday, albeit with one glaring exception. My post on Lord Save Us is no where to be seen in the top 10 (or even the top 20) of 2010. While it's moment in the spotlight has apparently passed, it was a valuable contribution to a very important ongoing conversation about the Christian Church in America.

A few new posts in 2010 gained enough traction to displace a few of the stalwarts that would otherwise fill the top 10 spots.
Tomorrow, to round out my reflections on blogging, I'll post a few of my personal favorites from the all time top 50.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Most Popular Blog Posts of the Decade

 To be fair, I've only been blogging since 2006 and only have traffic data since 2007.
  1. The Church is a Whore, But She's My Mother - This is a spicy yet ever relevant quote by Tony Campolo (quoting St. Augustine) about his view of The Church. It's worth a peak if you haven't heard it before. While this post is 3 years old, traffic has nearly doubled in 2010. Also, it should be said this post has as many views as the next 3 closest posts combined. 
  2. Movies From Sociology Class - This is one of my random posts that somehow found a much wider audience then I ever imagined. It's not one of my prouder moments as a writer, but demonstrates the value of the blog as an aggregator of information. Which leads to #3...
  3. Multiple Word Search Engine - I found this tool when a friend was looking for an easy way to study vocab definitions for class. Over the course of a few days I scoured the internet until I found exactly what I was looking for. As it turns out, a lot of people are looking for the same thing.
  4. Lord Save Us From Your Followers - Through my 3 years of involvedment with Nightstrike (see #9), which is featured in the documentary, I got my hands on an early release. In retrospect this was probably one of the first reviews online. A few months later I posted the release date of the film, which also made it in the top 20.
  5. Lacho Calad Drego Morn - Somehow I managed to interpret this quote from Children of Hurin. Turns out a lot of people were also curious about the meaning of this quote. I'm ashamed that I didn't state my sources. My methods are unknown, even to me now.
  6. Theological Response to the Shack - I felt like this response was fair and balanced in contrast to many of the scathing attacks that were floating around at the time. My own review of The Shack was also in the top 20.
  7. Future of Saab - For much of 2010 Saabs feature was bleak. It appeared Koenigsegg was going to take the helm. It's ironic this post has recieve so much traffic, because this was not the end of the story. Saab would face death and salvation a couple more times before finally being saved by Spyker.
  8. Christs Body in the Tomb - I really enjoyed writing this analysis of a painting by Hans Holbein the Younger mentioned in Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot. I'd like to think of this as one of my more academic contributions to the internet.
  9. Bridgetown Ministries: Nightstrike - These were my initial reflections from 2006 about Nighstrike (making it the oldest post in my top 10), which I would go on to serve at for the next 3 years. God would use this time to transform and define my life in ways I never could have imagined. Will always treasure my years serving there.
  10. Google Reader - I am a staunch supporter of Google Reader. It's a magnificent way to stay in touch and up to date with this fast paced world

Tomorrow I'll post some interesting results specifically from 2010.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sociological Significance of Facebooks Map of the World

This stunning map, put together by a Facebook intern, has been making it's rounds.



But it really got me thinking.

Physical borders are beginning to look archaic. Less an less do we see an ambiguous flag representing a sea of faceless individuals. We are beginning to see others for who they are; as human beings, with friends, family, interests, and dreams.

The global interconnectedness that the Internet allows is creating a new consciousness. I'm not talk about the hive mind that is the web, but a new consciousness of our relationship to our fellow human being, even if that human being is on the other side of the planet.

You can already see how we are thinking a lot differently about issues. Just 50 years ago the average American didn't care that millions of people were starving in Africa in contrast to their lifestyle. It's affecting our morals and constructing a new global worldview (In that sense, it is a much truer all encompassing "world"view).

With the increasing interconnectedness of humanity comes a new age without borders. The age has passed where the Greeks relished in the excess and luxury of water and Americans flippantly consumed energy and resources without thought to those who had not. Increasingly our moral obligation to humanity as one is being revealed. This changes our minds and our hearts and must also change our social structures if we hope for an existence without futilely numbing ourselves to the pain and suffering of the world around us.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why You Must Listen to Mumford & Sons #7

 Reason #7: Little Lion Man



As their first radio release, Little Lion Man is the song that fueled the bands explosion here in the States. After hearing it on 94.7 over 9 months ago, I immediately looked it up online, and got the album within the week. It has since become my least favorite song on the album, which is not to say by any means that I don't like it.

Within the context of the album up to this point, Little Lion Man is one of the more straight-forward songs.

It's a song about self-regret and guilt. He has been living by lies, failing to be the man he was made to be, and in the wake of this destruction he has hurt someone close to him.

Weep for yourself, my man,
You'll never be what is in your heart
Weep Little Lion Man,
You're not as brave as you were at the start
Rate yourself and rake yourself,
Take all the courage you have left
Wasted on fixing all the problems
That you made in your own head

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really F'd it up this time
Didn't I, my dear?
Didn't I, my...

Tremble for yourself, my man,
You know that you have seen this all before
Tremble Little Lion Man,
You'll never settle any of your scores
Your grace is wasted in your face,
Your boldness stands alone among the wreck
Now learn from your mother or else spend your days Biting your own neck

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really F'd it up this time
Didn't I, my dear? (x2)

Didn't I, my dear?

Ahhhhh......

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really F'd it up this time
Didn't I, my dear? (x2)

Didn't I, my dear?

Be sure to check out the other reasons you must listen to Mumford and Sons:

Reason #1: Sigh No More
Reason #2: The Cave
Reason #3: Winter Winds
Reason #4: Roll Away Your Stone
Reason #5: White Blank Page
Reason #6: I Gave You All
Reason #7: Little Lion Man
Reason #8: Timshel

Thursday, December 16, 2010

You Hate Twitter?

  Why it's worth a second look, but not for what you might think.

I often find myself in crowd of friends biting my tongue, while Twitter receives a thrashing. I understand the shallow and vain content that has tainted so many impressions of Twitter. But if this defines Twitter, then you are missing how valuable of a communication tool it is.

While the "low" uses are an unfortunate aspect of Twitter*, by no means does it define Twitter.

Twitter represents a complete paradigm shift in communication. A new form of communication that can be leveraged to solve real world problems and make our communities better. That's a mighty claim, but here are a few glimpses of Twitter in action:
This is just the start.

Have you seen any other stories of Twitters potential in action?What other ways can a tool like Twitter be wielded to mobilize and empower people to strengthen the social fabric of our communities and our globe?



*It is totally possible to regularly participate in Twitter without encountering those who use it for "low" uses. In fact you don't even have to contribute to appreciate it's value. And you definitely don't have to follow people who abuse it just because they are you friends or family. For example, I follow some specified news sources to stay up on things I'm interested in, a few comedians for comic relief, and a select handful of friends and family who occasionally use it to share content I would be interested in.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Best EP of The Decade

 Collision Course by Jay-Z/Linkin Park.

Voting for the best EP was my cowardly way to get around committing to a best album of the decade. I just wanted to start the conversation about your favorite music of the decade.

So wtell me, what is your favorite music (Artist, Song, Album, EP) from the last decade?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why You Must Listen to Mumford & Sons #6

 Reason #6: I Gave You All



I'm back after a month long fast from blogging but I am still deeply committed to finishing my interpretive analysis of the album Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons.

If you haven't been following every post this far, and don't want to start at the beginning, I would recommend reading my post on The Cave to understand the central movement of how I am interpreting the album.

I Gave You All is another song I find many labeling as a "break up song". It's not, though I confess it was my initial interpretation as well.

We can't leave out lyrics that are inconsistent to our initial interpretation. I find myself applying interpretive templates to songs in order to easily make sense of, and relate to them. In this case, when we confront what appears to be inconsistencies, and allow these to redefine our simplistic assumptions, we find there is a very rich and profound meaning to this song.

First and foremost I Gave You All is a lament.

And because the narrator has not found resolution to his struggle, we are entering in to an immense amount of internal conflict. We see this conflict in the repeated contradiction between the versus and the refrain. The narrator repeatedly claims to have given his all in the refrain, all the while confessing his guilt in the versus.

We begin in a reflective state, which slowly builds to confusion and frustration.
Rip the earth in two with your mind
Seal the urge which ensues with brass wires
I never meant you any harm
But your tears feel warm as they fall on my forearm

I close my eyes for a while
And force from the world a patient smile

How can you say that your truth is better than ours?
Shoulder to shoulder, now brother, we carry no arms
The blind man sleeps in the doorway, his home
If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy I could have won

But I gave you all

I close my eyes for a while
And force from the world a patient smile

But I gave you all
He's realizing his past in guilt ridden, having unwittingly hurt those around him through his indifference. But he has deluded others, even himself, into believing he has given his all. We know he is after Truth, but now when Truth is painful he is challenging it's validity. The repeated refrain reveals his bitterness, in a sense refusing to confront his shortcomings.
And you rip it from my hands
And you swear it's all gone
And you rip out all I have
Just to say that you've won
But now it has been exposed, like a child with a piece of stolen candy in his pocket. The sham is up, he hasn't given his all. The thing he had refused to give up has been taken. Simply put, I believe this is comfort - a self centered posture in life, not allowing his heart to be vulnerable to those around him.

He is angry and bitter, as the song builds to a climax, spitefully shouting "you've won, and it hurts to be wrong!"
Well now you've won!

But I gave you all...
We saw that his guilt has been exposed from the first verse, yet in the final lines of the song we still hear him repeating his claim of ignorance. Life was easier when he was able to live in the delusion that he had given his all, while still standing back from a safe distance. But now that he has been exposed (to himself more importantly then to others) there's no going back.

If we are willing to allow the rest of the album to provide context to our interpretation of this song then the "you" that he lied about giving his all too is a providential God who's Truth, or ways, are greater then his. The narrator has been humbled by his lack of dependence and submission to God.

God asks us for our all, and how often do we sing in worship that we are giving our all. Our brokenness runs so deep, we routinely follow destructive patterns without even realizing it. As conviction of this reality runs deeper, it often means letting go of things we never knew we were holding so tightly. As one grapples with this, a frustrated lament is a natural response to the hurt of being humbled.

The end has no shiny resolution with a pretty red bow. While it seems that's hard for our culture to swallow, its okay. It's a reality many of us find ourselves in more often then we are willing to admit. This is a lament that can help us to express our frustration while working through it.



Reason #1: Sigh No More
Reason #2: The Cave
Reason #3: Winter Winds
Reason #4: Roll Away Your Stone
Reason #5: White Blank Page
Reason #6: I Gave You All
Reason #7: Little Lion Man
Reason #8: Timshel

Thursday, December 09, 2010

God is Jealous

 Is this bad new or good news?

This often confounding question is explored in the excellent podcast series called Groupthink Rescue. This is the 5th episode, but after listening you'll want to go back and listen to them all.

What is Groupthink Rescue? From the Facebook page (where you can also engage in discussions about each episode):

Groupthink Rescue is a weekly podcast that invites people away from common misconceptions and toward the true gospel of Jesus.

Groupthink is a type of thought within a deeply cohesive in-group whose members try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas.

Our hope is to rescue people from these misconceptions about Christianity, about Jesus, about the Bible, and about church. And our hope is to point people to the true Word of God and to the true Gospel of Jesus.
It's a perfect theological snack to get you through the week.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

What are Your Thoughts on WikiLeaks?

"Proponents of truth and integrity by holding our government accountable" or "malicious terrorists undermining our national security"?

One or the other? Somewhere in between or something altogether different? I'm curious where your opinion falls.

I've linked to articles from different perspectives to help stimulate feedback.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Why Should We Care About Advent?

In fact, why care about the ancient Church Calendar at all?

Rob Bell serves up an engaging introduction to this topic; igniting my own interest in the church calendar which has been kindled over the last couple years.

I ordered Eternal Seasons: A Spiritual Journey Through the Church's Year by Henri Nouwen to help find my place in the rhythm of the new Church Year.

The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life - The Ancient Practices Series and Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God look good too. Should make for some good reading over the next few Church years.

Monday, December 06, 2010

What I Learned From Writing 50K+ Words in 30 Days

More then anything, writing that much sparked an unquenchable thirst to read more!

In retrospect I see how much I drew from life experience to create new ideas. While nothing can be more formative to your creativity then rich authentic life experiences, reading can augment the potential of this creativity exponentially.

My next lesson was achieved by confronting the fear of how much I suck. There was a constant looming question of "what if there's nothing left?" and every word you write sounds more like crap then the last.

But I kept gagging myself, forcing something, anything to come out. Time and time again vomit would splatter across the screen. I would sit back to catch my breath, reflecting on what was written.

And it's brilliant.

Moments earlier I was convinced it's over. It's a dead end. Futile. I'm empty. Failure.

That's only day 3.

By day 7 I began to find comfort in the routine feeling of my inadequacy. But that didn't make it any easier. Multiple times a day, for 30 days straight, I didn't want to write another word. It required every ounce of self discipline I have acquired in my short 23 years of life (the bulk of which came from Cross Country in High School).

I also learned to keep my iPod touch on hand. Always. This is especially useful in bed to jot down the stream of ideas that regularly hits me with reckless abandon when I'm on the verge of falling asleep.

Finally one of the many lessons I learned about the creative process is to discover that which inspires me - and drown myself in it by engaging as many of my senses as possible (Visual, touch, sound etc.).

In a future post I'll share a few creative wells that I personally draw from.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Living the Upside Down Life

Four years ago, along with good friends and the support of my church community, I began acting on a conviction to live out the values of our Christian faith more fully. Not on a two-week overseas mission trip, not once a month at a soup kitchen for the homeless, but daily in our immediate community.

Up until that point, I was king of my life, where safety and comfort were the edict of my kingdom. But as I pursued the Christian faith, it humbled me from this throne that was not mine to claim. My faith invited me to submit my life to be a part of something greater then myself, which consequently meant abandoning my own aspirations for safety and comfort.

This is what led us, and many Christians, to identify intentionally with the poor. It is not required for acceptance in the faith, but I don't think one should be surprised when Christians do choose to reach out to the downtrodden of their community, even at great personal risk to themselves.

I want to be clear that acceptance in the Christian faith is upon one basis: that God the Father and His Son Jesus are in perfect union, that Jesus took on our humanity to identify with us in our brokenness, and bearing our burden, that we may be accepted by grace into divine union with our Creator. We are not accepted on the basis of our particular actions, no matter how zealous, righteous, or loving.

Being touched by the grace of God that meets us in our broken state, draws us to know and worship God, and compels us in an overflow of worship to turn to our neighbor and demonstrate this same grace. From Isaiah 58 to Luke 14 we see value in sacrificing our ambitions for the sake of others and instead identifying with the broken, marginalized, and outcast of society.

However, what A.W. Tozer calls the “self-sins”, prevent us from taking risks and making ourselves vulnerable in order to serve our own community. The self-sins are self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, self-rights, and self-gratification. These dwell too deep within us, too much a part of our natures, to come to our attention without allowing God’s light to shine into the innermost motives that shape our lifestyle.

Putting to death the self-sins led myself and eight others to restructure our lifestyle which included choosing to make a very impoverished and dangerous apartment complex our home. We felt we would be able to most easily put the grace and compassion of our faith in action to those who are the most visibly downtrodden in our community.

As we prayerfully sought how to best serve our community we did not want to make assumptions about their problems and think we had the solution. We decided to first have a posture of listening, to learn about our neighbors. We began to host weekly community meals with the support of local churches. As this is our lifestyle, not a job, collaboration and unity between churches is necessary.

Going door to door inviting people to a community dinner and talking to people you don’t know can be uncomfortable. But comfort becomes less important as we continue to comprehend God’s glory. God calls us to take steps of faith in our life, and that means stepping out of our comfort and into the fear of the unknown. Will I be appreciated? Will I accomplish anything? Will I be respected? Again, the Christian faith liberates us from the slavery of these self-sins that prevent us from acting.

The community meals were an explosive catalyst for relationships that blossomed into friendships, opportunities to serve and meet felt needs, to learn about new cultures while embracing immigrants and refugees, to create safe space within the community for children to thrive. But we also learned to see the Divine in the mundane. Being available to a depressed widow, not only in moments of emergency when her apartment floods, but a regular presence of love over the course of months. Not only being with a single mom when she is suicidal at midnight, but being an anchor in her chaotic life for years.

And let’s face it. A fair amount of our motive to do good is tainted by pride. How much skill does it take to spend time with a depressed widow or help a single mom clean her chaotic home? Mostly it takes forbearance - and a willingness to give oneself night and day to something that, according to our usual reckoning, is not all that significant.

We learned first-hand through these relationships that while alleviating pain and suffering may sometimes be the fruit of our being with those who suffer, that is not primarily why we are there. Ministry takes courage to be with the sick, the dying, and the poor in their weakness and in our powerlessness. We can’t fix their problems or even answer their questions. As Henri Nouwen says, we dare to be with others in mutual vulnerability and ministry precisely because God is a God who suffers with us and calls us to gratitude and compassion in the midst of pain. You cannot solve all the world’s problems, but you can be with people in their problems and questions, trusting that joy also will be found there.

And indeed, there is joy. Joy in deep meaningful relationships that flourish when there is love and grace demonstrated within authentic community. While many in the surrounding community would rather bulldoze the apartment complex, this upside down life of abandoning comfort and security in submission to God can transform an impoverished crime ridden apartment complex into a home that you love and treasure - so much so that when it came time for my wife and I to leave, we left with a knot in our throat and tears in our eyes.

---

This article was originally published in Danish on November 25 at www.kristendom.dk

www.kristendom.dk is driven by the Danish newspaper Christian Daily and is Denmarks largest website dealing with news, background and debates on Christianity, Church and Faith with more than 60,000 unique readers each month.

Friday, December 03, 2010

In The Shadow of the Christmas Tree Bomber


Except this bomber is a "devout Christian".

As a Christian, I find holding both of these events in my mind together to be a very helpful and healthy exercise. It helps me get into the shoes of Muslims and Somali's who share strong associations to the Pioneer Square bomber.

If not terrorism, God knows Christians are guilty of a good many other wrongs. I delve deeper into the exercise by asking the following question: If someone attended my church and went on to commit a great wrong, how would I feel if someone committed arson against my church?

Yes, terrorism and religious extremism needs to be discussed, but even more important is how we talk about them.

As I skimmed Facebook in the days that followed, amidst all of the frustrated and occasionally hateful clamoring, I was struck by one small voice that took a stand:
"We should pray for him."
I love how this frames the event.

In prayer we are humbled at the foot of the cross by our own brokenness, reminded by God's grace that met us, equipping us to turn and do the same. Hatred is replaced by heartbreak.

How I talk about events like this can either be destructive for our communities and destroy my credibility as an ambassador of Christ or by acting out of humility, compassion, and grace the dialog can be fruitful and glorifying to my King.

To assist in putting on the shoes of our Muslim neighbors I recommend reading this article about the perspective of local Muslims in response to the event.

It scares me to think how easy it would be to pick and choose condemning verses out of the Bible. How would I respond if someone did this to me? How much more productive would the conversation be if we asked them to explain the Quaran instead of foolishly pulling verses out of context and telling them what it means. And what a great start to a deeper relationship.

Listen first. Seek understanding. Be humble.

Another invaluable exercise I have found in the last 5 years of my life is to carefully listen to my internal dialog. This is not the opinions you voice about events, sometimes it is conscious thought, but most often it is simply how events make you feel. These feelings are not out of your control and they should be evaluated. They grow out of your belief system which is constantly evolving, sometimes core values conflicting with minor values, and is never above reproach.

In my own past on multiple occasions I have witnessed evil acts fueled by hate towards a group that is framed as an "enemy" to a group I am affiliated with (whether it be cultural, social, political, national, economic, or religious). While I would never partake in the act, or even voice approval of it, I feel a sense of satisfaction, sometimes joy, knowing the "enemy" has been hurt.

It can be scary to notice these internal dialogues. But challenging them has been a source of significant growth in my life.

For further reading I recommend Donald Millers response. He has an interesting vantage point as he was standing 25 ft from where the would be bomb was. I love his take on extremism, particularly his succinct conclusion on Christian extremism.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What to Say after 30 Days Away?

After not blogging for a month (with the exception of Elena's early birthday surprise) there seems to be a glut of topics to write about, while no single topic feels important enough to be the first.

To get this silly self imposed burden off my shoulder I'll do a shallow recap of NaNoWriMo: NaNoWriMo made November the single most thrilling month of my life.

And I'm exhausted.

I experienced more writer highs since November 1st then my entire preceding life combined (To be fair, I didn't experience my first writers high until my senior year in high school). I learned as much about writing as I did myself while developing a more rich awareness of my creative process.

I also fell in love with Scrivener.

While I didn't write a single 50,000 word novel, I did write two 25,000+ word outlines. One, an epic dystopian sci-fi. The other, a theological autobiography. (And for good measure I threw in a 1,000 word article that got published in Danish. I'll post the English translation soon.) And the best part - I am super energized to keep working on both going into the new year!

Being away also gave me plenty of time to reflect about whats happening on the blog. If your a regular, do let me know if there is particular content that you find compelling here. I'd love to incorporate that into the renewed vision as it takes shape in the coming weeks.